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Texas 47, Us 37, Lunesta 9, Jim 9, Abc 8, Dallas 8, Lea 7, Lauren 6, Westboro 6, Ruby 5, Jim Ryan 5, Richter 4, Steve Osunsami 4, Waco 4, Linda Goelzer 4, Warren Jeffs 3, Medicare 3, Katie 3, America 3, Flora 3,
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  ABC    ABC World News Now    News/Business. Rob Nelson,  
   Paula Faris. Global news. New. (CC)  

    April 18, 2013
    1:40 - 4:00am PDT  

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child sexual abuse. >> as of this afternoon, child protective services has now taken temporary legal custody of 401 children 401 children. katie: the children were ultimately returned, but in 2011, jeffs, who reportedly boasts an astonishing 80 wives, was tried and convicted for his celestial marriages to two underage girls. he's currently serving life in prison. >> rarely, if ever, in the criminal justice system have beever encountered a person such as warren jeffs. >> flora says she was a victim of a culture of abuse on the flds compound. she escaped when she was just 16 years old, and will now stop at nothing to help others do the same. and please welcome flora jessup. [applause] thank you for being here, flora. >> thank you for having me.
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katie: i know that you say you felt skeptical about the flds community even as a little girl. when did you start feeling that abuse helped abuse helped with. my maternal grandmother believed in the group and she taught me to believe in myself as a person, and it wasn't based on who owned me. to that was a taboo teaching a family. so that self worth that my grandmother instilled in me made me question. and the questions never stopped. katie: you say the abuse helped, and obviously i'm sure that opened your eyes. your father molested you when you were just 8 years old. >> that's the first memory i have of being molested. katie: do you think it happened before that? >> it could. it may, it may not have. there is a historical prevalance of abuse, sexual abuse within the community. katie: you were raped by your
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father when you were 12 years old. >> yes. katie: what do you remember from that? >> as a child, even when the molestation was occurring i still had hope inside of me that my dad would quit becoming my monster and become my hero. because that's what children want. they want their parents to become the hero. when the rape finally occurredrr coming. my monster under my bed was a familiar face that walked in my bedroom door. katie: how did he rationalize this? did he try to convince you this was god's will? or how did he do this to you? >> they used a lot of doctrine. we were thought that we were enticers. and this is something that is even, it doesn't matter whether you're from the flds or from every day abuse, it is the same for all perpetrators. they teach the child that they are at fault.
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so there's a guilt association when you're a victim of abuse. and it also stops you from speaking out. but, when you have religious abuse, as well, they include doctrine. katie: did your mother know about this? >> yes, my mother did. katie: and did you go to her? did she explain it away? fathomable. >> i excused my mother's inaction and made excuses believing that mom couldn't protect me because she had to many other children to protect. i was wrong. katie: we tried to reach out to your father about the allegations, and we were unable to reach him. do you have any contact with him at all? >> i do have contact with him. he denies molesting all of us, all of the sisters. there's 28 children in the family and he denies the abuse of all of us. katie: he was never prosecuted. why?
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>> we have very limited amount of prosecutions coming out of these communities because the flds have their own police force. so it's hard to get a report made. katie: there have been some convictions i know in the flds compound in texas. for things ranging from sexual assault to rape. do you think the authorities are beginning to crack down on some of these crimes? >> you know, when they raided that compound in texas, the c.p.s. caseworkers were told to shut their mouths and send the children home. and the authorities in utah and arizona have just sat on their hands and done nothing. katie: what was the psychological impact for you, being molested, as you claim by your dad, at 8 and raped at 12? >> you know, i used to be very angry. i have learned that my anger was not so much at my father, but at my mother. for failing to protect me. for refusing to protect me.
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katie: you escaped at 16. >> i did. katie: how were you able to leave? >> i had to get married to my first cousin in order to leave. i had sought the advice of the county prosecutor, who told me that i had to get married and become emancipated in order to get out. katie: your husband actually escaped with you, which surprises me. >> he was a young man in the community and we were caught talking. that is very, very taboo. i had the first choice i had ever been given at that point. it was to either marry him, or they were committing me to a mental institution for the rest of my life because i was out of control. katie: do you still have contact with your husband? >> i do. katie: he's out of this? >> he is out. i stayed with him for about three weeks and then i left him. i had to get away from everything associated. katie: it was a very tough few years for you, once you left.
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>> yes. you come out of these cults, you no so naive, and you have concept or, there's no reality for you. you don't even know who you are because your whole identity is based on church leadership. i went onto the streets, and i got addicted to cocaine. and spent a couple of years in a very heavy addiction. what we see now with the children coming out still today is a very high prevalance for drug and alcohol addiction. and in working with the children that i've worked with over the years, we've come to realize the they heavily medicate the hildren within the group can skycotropic medications. we were told it's our vitamins, take your vitamins. so when the children come out, their cut off.
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they're feeding addictions they don't even realize they have and it's leading them into this cycle that's horrible. katie: you have made it your life's work, flora, to help other people escape. how many people have you helped so far? >> i have gone in and physically extracted 138 individuals out of the cult. cheers and applause] katie: i know one of those people is your 26-year-old sister, ruby. when we come back, ruby, who finally got out in january will tell her story for the first. that's time. that's right after this. announcer: up next -- >> it was hard to say it, but i wanted out. announcer: escaping a 12-year nightmare. >> i planned this out. announcer: and what is warren jeff's role today? katie: he's still controlling many members. >> all members. katie: how does he do that? he's in prison serving a life sentence.
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announcer: that's next.
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[applause] katie: and we're back with flora jessup whofundamen escaped a fundamentalist latter day saints compound at the age of 16 after a childhood she said was filled with sexual assault and intimidation. she has since helped 138 others get out, including her sister ruby who just escaped in january. ruby's here for her first tv interview about her experience. welcome, ruby. thank you for being here.
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[applause] what have these twoke forbeen like for you since you escaped? >> it has been a wonderful experience. knowing that i can actually make being with s, and my dear sister has just overjoyed me. katie: but it must be such a huge adjustment for you to go from this very restickive world to a world where you have choices and you can do what you want to do. >> i tried in the community to make my own choices. i was what you call a rebellious girl. katie: you were raised in a family with two mothers, 28 children. and you say that you were physically and sexually abused by relatives from a very early age. >> yes. katie: can you tell us about that experience as hard as it must be. >> the ages i remember are 3 and 5.
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we were in salt lake city. my dad took my mom out, i'm not ure exactly where. and, he told us specifically each one of us to stay in the house, do not go outside. and somehow the front door was left open, me as a 3-year-old was adventure rows. went out front and we started playing with the toys on the front porch. and, i heard a car coming down the road. and it turned in the drive way and it revved and it just stopped three inches from my face. i was so scared and in shock. i didn't move. my dad got out of the vehicle, come around front and grabbed me and whipped me. and pulled me in the house. katie: what about the sexual abuse? >> i have blocked so many
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memories out. i'm not sure who exactly it was that, the perpetrator. it was on my 5th birthday. and they asked me to go for a ride with them. so i did. and -- they sat me on their lap and asked me to drive as they put their hands where they didn't need to be. katie: at 14, it was determined you would get married, and warren jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the church actually officiated at your wedding. >> yes. katie: what do you remember about that? >> i remember telling my younger sister, my older sister, sorry, i wanted to be married at 14. because of the abuse that was in the home, i felt that that would
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give me an opportunity to be free from the abuse that i was getting in the home. katie: you felt it would protect you? >> yesto say it, hard to say it wanted out. katie: you were your husband owes only wife, how unusual is that? because it sounds as if most men, and correct me if i'm wrong in this compound had multiple wives? >> they start with one. katie: and are they given wives as a reward? >> yes. polygamistee to this way, love the prophet with their whole heart. they are rewarded with more wives. and the more wives you have, the higher in heaven you'll be. >> it's also, you are traded when you have daughters, you can trade for another wife. katie: they'll swap children to provide wives. >> to provide wives for the other families, yes. and it's based on, do you get a
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wife depending on your loyalty and submission to the prophet. katie: warren jeffs? >> yes. katie: he's still controlling, i understand, many members. >> all members. katie: how does he do that? he's in prison serving a life sentence. ruby, you would know that. how does he allegedly control these people? >> at times when we were having sunday church, he would call in, and he would only have a certain amount of time to talk, and he ould talk to the people, and give the revelations that are from god. katie: how did you finally escape, ruby? >> i planned this out. my husband was gone to work, i packed my bags, put them out in the van. and, when he got home from work, he tried convincing me to stay. very strongly.
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and i looked at him and i said i can't do it anymore, i need to get away. so i got in the van and i drove out to my brother's house. he's not a part of the community anymore. stayed there for a few days. contacted my sister. katie: and flora, you had tried to help ruby leave on several occasions prior to that and were unsuccessful. >> ruby is the reason i came back and started fighting, and i gave her my word i would do everything i could to keep her safe. before i could get to her she disappeared and i have been looking for her for 12 years. katie: you have six children. >> i have six children. katie: and your first child you had at 16. was it difficult to leave knowing that it was unclear what would happen to your kids? >> yes, it was. katie: but ultimately you did get custody of them and they're with you now? cheers and applause]
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we've reached out to a member of the legal defense team for the flds, and they declined to comment. are you surprised by that? >> no. i'm not. they, they only come out when it benefits them. for instance, after the texas raid, they did a huge p.r. campaign. it benefited them. katie: are you afraid to speak out so candidly about these people? are you afraid of retribution in anyway? >> i'm not. it needs to be heard. >> the only thing they can do to me that they haven't already done is kill me. that's how they con was through as children, was through that fear. we live under no fear. no fear, ladies. [cheers and applause] katie: well, ruby and flora, you're very courageous. thank you so much. it's shocking and eye-opening. we really com coming
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in to tell us your stories today. >> thank you very much for having us. katie: thank you, and good luck to both of you. p next, a former member of the westboro baptist church speaks out. you started to speak out and you were thrown out. >> i have no contact with my mother, my father, i feel trapped in this church. katie: tell me about the moment you decided i could not be a part of this group any longer.
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[applause] katie: like flora and ruby, my next guest felt like a stranger in the family and the faith in which she was raised. the westboro baptist church. the group is known for its hateful protests at military funerals, and its homophobic slurs. lauren said when she spoke out against some of the church teachings, the group and her parents turned against her. the infamous westboro baptist church.
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a topeka based sect that classifies it as independent baptists. >> ♪ god show his wrath to thee ♪ >> known for its obscene signs, tirades against jews and homosexuals and picketting the funerals of fallen u.s. soldiers. >> i say thank god for dead soldiers. katie: thrust into the spot slight in 1998 for protesting at the funeral of matthewerd, a shepherd, a young wyoming man who was beaten to death because he was openly gay, and more recently to picket the funerals of the sandy hook elementary shootings. they believe nonchurch members are doomed to hell because they claim, according to church doctrine, god hates gays, americans and anyone else who doesn't believe what they do. >> ♪ your destruction has begun
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you need us now ♪ katie: but some of the most shocking members of church members are those of the children, including this girl who can be seen singing a musical parody full of hate. >> ♪ y'all pretend you can lie every day disobeying god like it's all good ♪ katie: lauren drain writes about her experience in her new book called "banished, viaing my years in the westboro baptist church." lauren, thank you for being here today. [applause] >> thank you for having me. katie: you know, the last girl we saw in the video singing those hateful lyrics, that was you. when you see that, i mean, what goes through your head? >> that i'm not that person anymore. that i don't even know who that is anymore. i was raised to have such a judgmental, hateful outlook on the world and people in general that, i just, i was so lost.
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i just look at that person thinking she was lost. katie: how did your family get involved in this church? >> my father, actually originally set out to do a documentary on the church. he spent a summer with the pastor fr pastor fred phelps, his, the members, and one way or another he decided that this was a very controlling church that controlled the children, they controlled the family members in terms of keeping them, you know from doing certain things. and i think because i was a teenager at the time he saw that that was something he wanted to take advantage of. katie: so this was a way to keep you in line? >> control me as a teenager, his teenage daughter. katie: so he and your mom and your siblings all joined this church. >> yeah. katie: andave seen have seen these protests on the news, and the anti-gay epithats. who are these people and why are
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they so full of hatred? >> when i was originally introduced to them i didn't really know the whole story. like i said, i didn't have a religious background, didn't really know. i feel like my father manipulated me and my family into believing these things. he presented it to me and my mother in this light-hearted way. this judgmental group that condemned people before they even know them and to have this elitist mentality that they're the only ones going to heaven. katie: i know the congregation is quite small, only 40 people. are you concerned that you're giving them what they want by writing this book? you're giving them attention, and by extension, incidentally, we're giving them the attention they crave as well? >> i've definitely been concerned about that, however, in my circumstances, i have no contact with my family. my mother and my father, my three siblings who are still, i feel trapped in this church. trapped in the brainwashing,
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trapped in this life where they think the whole world is evil. if you leave the church, you know, you'll die a horrible death, or god will send you to hell or you'll have no hope of faith or love or kindness or forgiveness or anything good. so i feel like i have to risk the fact that i have to speak for the children. to show them that there is love and happiness on the outside. that god is different than the god they're being taught about. so, i feel like that's worth it. katie: tell us about the moment you decided i cannot be a part of this group any longer? >> the moment for me was when the church decided to start picketting small children's funerals. and praying for people to die and praying for deaths of people. that's when i really knew we had taken it to a whole other level of extreme. katie: when we come back, we're going to talk about how you broke free of the chains of this hate-filled group. announcer: coming up later,
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raised within an ultraconservative religion. >> really our whole lives were shaped and defined. announcer: why she was
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katie: we're back with lauren drain who was kicked out of the westboro baptist church. a church that protests at military funerals and is very anti-gay. lauren, why military funerals? why does this church protest at military funerals? i could never figure that out. >> yeah. that wasn't our original target. it was the homosexual community and anyone who supported it when i first joined. it seems like they expanded everything to any tragedy, anything that befalls the country in a negative way and they blame it on the acceptance of homosexuality. that is their logic.
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so for the funerals of our fallen servicemen they would say that it's your fault, you've accepted this sin god's going to punish the country, he's going to punish our soldiers. and they've pretty much expanded it to anyone and anything that befalls people. katie: when i see members of the church at these funerals with their hateful signs, i feel so terrible for those families of these servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives. and they're confronted with these people. >> yeah. katie: it's absolutely repulse ziff to me. >> right. i remember seeing one of the members, actually one of the very outspoken members that was on the segment. shirley, who at times would show remorse and at times would show like a human side of compassion. then she would quickly stifle and quickly suppress, like as if it was a horrible thing or a weakness. they deem it a christian
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weakness to have compassion for other humans, because they like -- katie: what? >> yeah, exactly. it's very backwards and it doesn't make sensethe way we we the way we were raised, the way children were raised. have no compassion upon anyone that's not inside the church. and that's one of the things i was very devastated when i was banished out of my own home, by my family. i hasn't lost, despite the fact i had protested and done these things that are very offensive, i hasn't lost human compassion, the ability to question things, love my parents, love my family. and by the time i was banished only seven years later, i saw that my father had lost all compassion for me. his eyes were dead and i see that they're dead for everyone else. and it's just, they ingrain it into the members, that that's an evil thing or a weakness to care for people. katie: you started to speak out, and so you were thrown out.
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>> exactly. i asked the pastor a couple of questions. i asked him questions, verses in the bible i didn't think matched up with our signs. i asked my parents, and slowly but surely they saw me as this person who was going to question their doctrine and they saw it as a threat. they saw it as a threat to keeping the control over the members. and i think that's the reason they kicked me out. katie: you were thrown out? you were out on the streets. all alone. >> yeah, my father told me. i came home from work one day and he told me the church had voted me out, i'm on my own, he doesn't want me in the house anymore. i left my 3-year-ol my 5-year-old brother and my 16-year-old sister that day. they told me i was out. i wasn't welcome back at any time, clunecation was completely cut off and i had three days to find a place toly. katie: have you had any contact with them? >> not my little siblings. i've tried to reach out to my mom several times.
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i've seen a heard a little bit of compassion to the point that she would answer the phone a couple of times. but three years since i've talked to her on the phone, six years. and my little siblings who i helped raise from the time i was born, they're like eight, 10 and 22 now. so it's been really hard being without them. katie: you recently got engaged so that's a bit of good news, happiness for you in your life, lauren? >> yes, thank you. [cheers and applause] katie: you know, we reached out to the westboro baptist church for a reaction to the release of your book. and they said "it is so filled with lies, the book shops that carry it should offer their customers a little truth in advertising and display it on the fiction shelf." how do you respond to that? >> it's all part of their manipulation tactics. of course they wouldn't want me to reveal the bad part, that side of the church.
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it completely negates and discredits their purpose, and their church. so of course they're not going to want to say it's full of anything but lies. katie: are you afraid? >> no. i was, in the very beginning when i got kicked out i was very afraid. i was taught that i was going to die a horrible disease, or a car would hit me. god would kill me, god would send me to hell. that i deserved all the things that were happening to me. i was mocked. three days after i was kicked out, i went home to return to my house and pick up a few of my things and my 3-year-old sister at the time was told that i don't belong there anymore and mocking me saying i don't live there anymore. they teach the children that everyone on the outside is evil. so in three days they had already brainwashed my sister to believe i was a horrible person. and it's really sad and i'm not scared of them. but they definitely did a lot to try and threaten to intimidate
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me. katie: do you think you'll ever forgive your parents? >> they have done a lot that is not worthy of forgiveness to me. but that's just not the kind of person i am. i believe that i have survived and grown because i believe in god, and he's hel actually fully know who he is as opposed to the skewed perspective i had before. and had they have a change of heart and come to me and tell me they're sorry for what they've done, i would 100% fi them. katie: you are very courageous and very eloquent and we so appreciate you talking to us today lauren. thank you so much and best of luck. much happiness. [cheers and applause] >> thank you. katie: to read an excerpt from lauren's book you can go to our website, by the way, katie couric.com. up next, a woman who says her mother threatened to lock her up if he disobeyed her family's strict beliefs. we'll be right back.
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katie: history detectives, plus save some cash on spring time deals for you. >> bam!
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[applause] katie: welcome back everyone. you know today we're talking about women who left restrictive
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religious environments. lea said he felt ostracised not following her family's strict faith and that her family stopped supporting her when she was just 16 years old. lea, welcome. thank you so much for being here. [applause] >> thank you. katie: you know, i think we should say first of all, there are many variations to all faiths. christianity, is lamb, but you describe your faith as ultra orthodox. so, what did that mean growing up in your home, lea? >> so, even within ultraorthodox, there are many, many different sects. in my family that meant we believed, we under god's will in a way nobody else did. it was a very strict interpretation of biblical law. the sabbath was observed very strictly. cosher had a whole set of extra rules that other jews may not have been familiar with. there was a strict segregation of the sexes. girls and women were supposed to be very modest and really our whole lives were very much
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shaped and defined by this identity. katie: what kind of limitations were put on you as a girl growing up in your family? >> well, for me as a girl, my most important values were to be modest and obedient. that was essential. and that was particularly important because i was being groomed for marriage at about 18, and it was essential that my reputation remain untarnished so that i be worthy of being match with a good ultra orthodox boy. katie: what about your opportunities? opportunities? did you have any? >> yes. so, in my sect we did have secular studies. we had a religious curriculum and then a secular curriculum. katie: tell me what happened to you though, lea, when you told your mom you wanted to go to college? >> so there had been someup to up to this deciding i wanted to go to college. going to college is completely forbidden in our group. i had been starting to ask questions about some of the things i saw, and then i met somebody in college. i said i want to be ultra
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orthodox but maybe i can also go to college. so i had been sent away to a very strict school at the time. i called up my mother on the phone and told her. and she was appalled. she said, lea, if you try to go to college, we're going to have you locked up. katie: what did she mean by locked up? >> when i think about it now, i don't know. i don't know if she even meant it. but i was 15 when i had this conversation with her. my parents were very powerful figures in my mind, so when she said that, i was terrified. i believed her entirely. i didn't know what it would mean but i knew, as a child, i felt like i'm going to end up locked up and that definitely terrified me. katie: i know you went to seminary in israel and there was an incident that happened there that dramatically changed your relationship with your family. what was that? >> so, when i was 16 i went to seminary. i was enjoying my freedom and independence, and i used my allowance in the beginning of the year and i bought this beautiful sweater, it was
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charcoal gray, had a little bit of lace on the collar and the wrist, it was just really beautiful. followed all the laws, my elbows were covered, my collarbone was covered but it was tight. and i knew that was provocative and flirting with danger to be showing my figure in that way. i had a sister who was living in israel at the time. she saw me in the sweater, she reported back to my parents and that was the end of my childhood. my mother called me on the phone, she was outraged, she said how dare you spend our money on immodest items. there's going to be no more allowance and there was a gigantic rift in the relationship between my parents and me from then on. katie: they brought you back to new york but did not support you financially, they pretty much cut you off, correct? >> yes. katie: where did you go? what did you do? >> they did bring me back to new york. when i was here, i got a minimum wage job, found a really small apartment and struggled to survive. practically, it was incredibly overwhelming.
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i struggled with enormous poverty, i went hungry very often. i was 17, i did not know anything about the world, but really it was emotionally, really that was the real difficult piece of it to just, after being raised in a cloistered, isolated world to find myself in a big city where i didn't know anybody. feeling completely lost and in limbo. i just felt abandoned and isolated and i was just in a really rough place. katie: meanwhile, lea says she had a heartbreaking and terrifying experience when she was living on her own. we'll talk about that and the new life she's made for herself when we come back. announcer: up next, just when she thought she found someone she could trust, lea faces the ultimate betrayal. >> that was really the end of my ife.
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[applause] katie: and we're back with lea who said she was cut off from
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her family for challenging their strict religious practices, and had to fend for herself at the age of 16. so, lea, you find yourself back in new york, your parents have cut you off financially. you meet someone, and something terrible happens. >> yes. so i met, desperate for human connection, i met this man, a non-jewish man in his 20's and he gave me a lot of attention and that was kind of exciting for me, after being so shunned, to feel empowered. katie: and you must have been terribly lonely. >> oh my goodness, absolutely. just to have somebody to talk to me. there were days that went by, no family members calling me, nothing. alone in my apartment going to work. it was very powerful to have somebody be interested in me. i was excited by it and i also new there were very strict limitations. despite my insist tans that he maintain those limitations, one night he raped me. and, that was really the end of
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my life. it was, completely, completely devastating. katie: michael jenkins is here, he's a social worker, and the program director for foot steps, that's an organization that helps men and women explore the world beyond the ultra religious communities in which they were raised. michael, when you hear her story, does it sound familiar to you? >> it sounds very familiar. of course, there's unique parts of this story that her lea's story, but there are also parts that are common to the women that are contacting footsteps and coming in and talking to us. katie: what is footsteps actually do? >> we actually provide a safe place for women to come and men to come. we provide groups, we provide individual counseling, we refer out, we connect with other community groups. but the main thing we provide is a safe community of people that have also left. so people are learning from one
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another and they're getting guidance. katie: how many young women seek your help? >> it's growing. we've served about a thousand people in the eight to 10 years that we've been open. and i would say about a third of those are women. katie: we contacted your father through email about your claims ostracised you. e responded by saying -- katie: what's your response to that? >> i am deeply saddened by his message. unfortunately, this is not unique. many of my friends who leave also have shared with me that they are branded as crazy or
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evil for questioning their faith, or trying to explore other paths. and just hearing his voice through your words, i'm just reminded of what it was like to be a teenager, so al overwhelmed and being told repeatedly by them i was crazy, i was evil for wanting these other things. and i just feel so happy, katie, that i am sitting here today and that i am in a place of strength and happiness. his words can't harm me. [cheers and applause] katie: well said. i mean, talking about coming out on the other side, you really have. you have a graduate degree in public policy from harvard now? >> yes. katie: i know, impressive right? everybody's likerd. oh, harvard. what are you doing professionally? >> i work in non-profits, i heard as i was moving forward in my career of somebody in our community who committed suicide.
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and it just stopped me in my tracks. it made me remember everything i had been through and it made me realize i could not sail on in my life pretending i had this crazy story. so i redirected everything i had learned trying to help others. so i work with footsteps very closely and try to advocate on behalf of the people. memoir a writer and my will be released in 2014. katie: and you're married? >> been married for five years, i have a beautiful little girl. [cheers and applause] katie: very beautiful. >> yes. katie: and leah, do you still consider yourself jewish? >> oh, absolutely. it took a long time for me to consider what that would mean if i wasn't going to be ultraorthodox, because i was taught if you're not, you're not jewish. yes, even though i'm not religious, culturally, i'm jewish. katie: a pleasure to meet you. thank you very, very much.
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and michael, thank you as well. we'll be right back with some final thoughts. [applause] announcer: guests of "katie" stay at the legendary new york city landmark hotel, steps away from time square and the theater district, in mid town manhattan.
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announcer: hey "katie" fans, it's katie's hollywood takeover. we want you in our live studio audience. visit www.katie couric.com to equest your tick [cheers and applause] katie: finally today they say two topics to avoid at dinner parties are religion and politics. unfortunately they happen to be two of my favorite subjects. the four women we met are a well
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inspiration, not just to people in their specific situations, but really anyone who feels trapped by an abusive partner, a parent or even a boss. i think it took a lot of guts for them to tell their stories today but it took even more to make the change and venture out on their own. not sure where they were going, but knowing they had to leave. we wish them all continued success. if you have a comment about today's show, visit us at katie couric.com or like us on facebook to share your thoughts. thank you so much for watching. i'll see you next time. nd eithe sent on home or sent out of the area as part of an evacuation or sent to hospitals further outside the area. >> jim, two concerns here right now. we're told that those flames are somewhat under control, there's worry about the toxicity of the
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air, ammonia compounds still in the air, evacuations nearby. also concern about a second fertilizer tank that could explode, presumably a massive type explosion like we already saw. what can you tell us about these dual concerns right now from where you're at? >> reporter: that's still a concern the fires are not out. yes, they're under control. yes, they are contained within the plant, the fertilizer factory that blew up, but, yes, there is that tank inside there that still contains some ammonia or some of the product that's being produced there. if they were to catch fire, there could be an explosion. if they were to be ruptured, there could be a leak of toxic fumes out into the community. the wind has been blowing quite strongly from the south for most of the day that may be shifting around this evening. that causes concern for people who live farther to the south including in waco, about 20 miles away. >> now, jim, the mayor of west texas is a firefighter who said after he was able to get out of
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the situation, he said his town needs prayers. there were a lot of people hurt, and he believes there's a lot of people who won't be with us tomorrow. clearly, he's talking about fatalities. have you had an opportunity to talk to the people who may have witnessed things? i think at the end of all of this it's going to be a story not so much about the structures or the fertilizer plant, but a story about the people who experienced this, who lived through this. some of the stories that you may be hearing. >> reporter: sure. a man who lives a couple of miles from the site of the explosion, but certainly felt it at his house, jumped into his truck with his wife and his 12-year-old son. they drove as quickly as they could over to the retirement home because his mother-in-law lives there. they got into the building and started searching for her. they were able to find her, but that man said that he also saw a lot of carnage, a lot of human suffering and many injuries in that building. he said he felt that there would be fatalities to come out of that. a state trooper later did confirm there were some
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fatalities. he wouldn't put a number on it. neither would the mayor/volunteer fire department firefighter, but he says, the mayor believes, there may be firefighters still unattended for. >> the big concern, the firefighters that rushed in to put out the initial flames before the massive blast. jim, the scene where you're at right now, how far are you from the fertilizer plant, and what are you seeing when you look to the left and to the right? >> reporter: well, it's extremely dark out here now, obviously. it's a very dusty community. they haven't had a lot of rain here lately. the smoke seems to have died down somewhat, the smoke that you could smell and certainly see earlier this evening. so the fires, if they are still burning inside the plant, seem to have abated somewhat, as they have around the neighborhood that surrounds that plant. so it's essentially a scene of rescue and search and folks still coming into the area. i heard the dispatcher talking a short time ago that people were bringing supplies in. many people were flowing into the area and bringing with them
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some supplies to help out with the relief effort and wondering where we're going to put it all. >> i have another question for you, jim. the trooper that we've been talking about who is from the department of public safety, he said that the priority is not so much the property. the priority is the people. and you touched upon it briefly about a search mission, which is what's happening now. can you talk a little bit more about what the plan is for the evening and into tomorrow as far as these collapsed homes go and the devastation that's very near to the plants. >> reporter: they're treating it very much as if it were a tornado scene. they're working to determine the area that's hardest hit, and then sending people in to do a building by building, house by house search. they'll go through and see if there are any survivors or, tragically, if anybody didn't survive. they'll place markings on the side of the structure to show that someone has gone in and searched and use code to show exactly what they found inside
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there. so that will be the process. it's going on now, and it will continue in probably a bigger way after sunrise. >> once again, abc's jim ryan reporting from very close to the plant explosion. we thank you for joining us this morning, jim. >> a developing situation. we want to go right now to our dallas affiliate, wfaa, and listen in to that station's wall to wall coverage from west texas. >> doctors and nurses that came in when they issued that code green emergency alert. the ceo of the hospital just saying how thankful they were that they had everyone come in when they did as quickly as they did, and they were able to hand handle, obviously, a stressful situation much better. we spoke to several volunteers outside of the hospital from local churches who were able to help and do what they can. we could see groups of people bringing in food for the families that are there waiting to hear about their loved ones. they did ask us to ask the
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public, if you call their line, that only direct family call. they said they've been flooded all evening, as you can imagine, with people calling about loved ones, seeing if they're okay, and they're just asking that immediate family call only. that way they can make sure everyone gets through. >> that is some relatively good news considering the difficulties that we've gone through tonight. chris, who was at hillcrest baptist tonight, reporting for us. thank you. we appreciate that information. >> you're welcome. >> these pictures you're seeing have come to us from the "waco tribune." they give you a ground level view of what happened in the few minutes after the explosion took place. some idea of the devastation, people helping people that goes on even at this hour. kelly slater is up in the news room at the social media center. >> so much going on right now. we understand that perry's office is in full motion. first we want to get to this inside picture. this is from a volunteer
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firefighter, and it just shows the absolute devastation. it is just gutted from the entire right to the left. you can look at all the firefighters looking up. these guys going up a ladder and looking for people that could potentially be stuck inside. that's something the state is highly concerned about right now. they're sending their emergency management operations team there as we speak. they're sending the state's top urban search and rescue team, along with the state health department and mobile medical unit. looking at this picture, this is the first we've really gotten that says so much from an actual firefighter who is in the thick of it, looking at it, and there's just absolutely nothing left. we have heard the numbers 50 to 75, 60 to 80 homes, apartments destroyed. this looks like it probably was an apartment here. firefighters looking up. you can see the panic in their face. all of this is on wfaa.com right now. in fact, you can continue to
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scroll through, as i will with you right now. here's some of the livestock we've been talking about. >> this is going on right now in texas from our dallas affiliate wfaa. >> they're going wall to wall with this information, and we're going to try to do the same for you. in a moment, we're going to return to that breaking story we've been telling you about in west texas. >> how our affiliates are scrambling, the latest details from the fertilizer plant explosion outside waco, texas. stay with us. this is breaking news. you're watching "world news now."
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and casualties. >> we have a lot of information that we have to get to. in fact, the mayor of the small town, west, has just had a press conference, and some of the things he's talking about is the damage. we're talking about 50 to 75 structures, including homes and businesses, nursing home, a school, and an apartment complex. he says, "the intermediate school caught on fire, and a number of houses in the area are completely destroyed or damaged." he also goes on to say they are now evacuating the area. this is a four square area around this plant that essentially is decimated. half of the town of 2,800 people have been evacuated. we're talking about more than 100 injuries, people being taken to a number of different hospitals. firefighters that were fighting the initial blaze, which is what was happening first, and then this explosion occurred, are still unaccounted for. the mayor of this town, west, texas, is a volunteer firefighter himself. he was there. he says he was knocked off of his seat. and now all he can think about
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is his fellow firefighters who are unaccounted for. >> that is the moment of the massive explosion. you have to keep in mind hundreds of firefighters are there fighting the fire that you see right before the explosion, and that is what is so frightening right now, and that is what has people in west texas so scared right now. the volunteer firefighters, their husbands, their brothers and sisters in some cases, and these men and women who were fighting this fire clearly were way close to this blast scene which registered 2.1 on the richter scale. it was felt 50 miles away. again, we have fatalities and confirmed 100-plus injuries. >> we want to get some insight on these injuries. this is a fertilizer plant, which has a lot of ammonia chemicals. so in order to get that kind of insight, we're going to abc's dr. richard besser, who's joining us now over the phone. dr. besser, are you there? >> yes, i'm here. >> good morning, professor. can you explain what some of the injuries might be from a fertilizer plant with components of ammonia.
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>> with a blast, you have to first think about the injuries from the blast itself, and so you'd be looking there for burns. you could be looking at broken bones, injuries to soft tissue, just from the explosion. when you add in the chemical ammonia, and you worry about what kind of breathing protection people have who are really close to that blast. ammonia can have a number of different impacts on your body. it's very irritating and corrosive. we've all smelled ammonia and know how hard it is to just smell that at very low levels. at high levels, ammonia can be very damaging to your respiratory track, to your nose, to your throat. it can cause swelling in your airways and can be very destructive. at high levels, you worry about people having lung damage and difficulty breathing. there would be a need for a lot of respiratory support. >> we're talking about hundreds of people being taken 20 miles
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away to the waco area, as you mentioned, lacerations, cuts, those type of injuries. these were people a couple of miles from the blast scene. anybody who was at that blast scene -- i don't know if you just saw that video we just showed. any chance somebody fighting a fire and is right up there on those flames could survive something like that? >> you never know. so you want to keep your hope. i have not seen the video of what took place there. but you hope that people who survived the blast itself, they were evacuated quickly. what you want to do with an explosion of ammonia, you want to get people away from there quickly. you want to remove clothing that could have ammonia on it and decontaminate people immediately so they're not getting ongoing exposure to the chemical. people who live far enough away that they're outside the evacuation zone but they can still smell ammonia, they should listen to the recommendation whether they do what's called shelter in place, where you
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close up your windows and doors and put on your air conditioning if you have that to try to filter the air, or whether the recommendation is to leave. one thing you sometimes see in disasters is people having an unwillingness to follow the recommendation to leave an area that's been exposed, but it's so important to do so. the goal is to try and prevent ongoing exposure to the gas, and depending on winds and directions, that could turn in a short moment. people should listen to that and follow those recommendations. >> thank you so much, dr. besser, for joining us this morning. we appreciate it. wonderful insight and great tips for people who may be near that blast site. >> let's take a look at these pictures we just got of a mushroom cloud over west texas. take a look. we don't have it. >> unfortunately, we don't have it at this moment. we'll be right back with that mushroom cloud and much more from west texas with that blast.
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mushroom cloud and much more from west texas with that blast. >> announcer: "world
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welcome back. we are covering this fertilizer explosion. just a massive situation in west, texas. we got some pictures now of a mushroom cloud, new pictures. take a look at this. that is the massive, massive mushroom cloud the mayor described earlier on the telephone. >> this is tommy musca you're about to hear. he is also a volunteer firefighter who says he was on his way to fight a fire that occurred at this chemical plant when it exploded. >> what i do know is approximately 6:30 there was a fire at the fertilizer plant on jerry marshall drive, north of the city of west. approximately 7:00 that plant exploded. the explosion propelled in a
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northwest direction. it damaged approximately a five-block area around that fertilizer plant. the fertilizer plant was fully engulfed. that, in turn, caught the intermediate school on fire. a number of houses in that area are completely destroyed or damaged. we are evacuating now. we are doing a search and rescue at this time. a nursing home, which was two blocks away, has been completely evacuated, and those patients have been accounted for and are moved to a safe location. we are now going through door to door and evacuating that area and searching for survivors as well as for deceased. >> that was the mayor of west, texas, talking about that horrible situation going on right now. >> and we do have a statement from the department of public safety, which is telling us what
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we already know. approximately 100 injuries. 50 to 75 homes have been damaged, including an apartment complex. there are evacuations that have taken place, including a local nursing home. hundreds of emergency personnel, including police, fire, and ems, have responded to the scene. efforts at that scene are going to continue throughout the evening. this has become a search and rescue mission now. >> among the 100 injured, also fatalities. we don't have a number on that. we'll be right back. we don't have a number on that. we will be right back. my hair and all i do to make it broadcast ready can't take the heat. good thing i uncovered head & shoulders damage rescue. it rescued my scalp, and saved my hair. with seven benefits, damage rescue relieves dry scalp and removes flakes, while helping to repair damaged hair. now i use it every day, because the camera never blinks. no flakes, no scalp or hair worries. the proof? see it tonight, at eleven. head & shoulders damage rescue. live flake free. the proof? see it tonight, at eleven. given way to sleeping. tossing and turning have where sleepless nights yield to restful sleep,
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and one day you'll do the same for yours. thanks, dad. happy birthday. ♪ welcome back to our ongoing coverage of a disastrous situation unfolding still at these early morning hours outside of a small town called west, texas, not far from waco, texas, an explosion at a fertilizer plant there, a massive fireball in the air, devastation. hundreds of people injured. fatalities for sure. we don't have an actual number on the fatalities. it's grim, and it's ongoing as
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we speak. >> speaking of damage, we're talking about a lot of structural damage as well. 50 to 75 buildings, including homes and businesses, have been completely decimated. some of them damaged, some of them completely decimated. an area that is a four-block radius around the plant also has been damaged extensively. what you're looking at, what became an emergency triage center on the football field of a school nearby that plant, people that were in a nursing home across the street from the plant had to be evacuated because of the damage it sustained. it was on fire for quite some time. they were taken to the football field as well as people from nearby homes. some of them damaged. some of them completely devastated. right now it has turned into a search and rescue mission. the fire is still ongoing, but we're told it's under control at this point. now what police are trying to do in the overnight hours because it's windy there, they're trying to go home to home to make sure everybody made it out safely. that's why at this time there's no telling how many people may
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have passed away. there's no telling how many people are truly injured although we are hearing from nearby hospitals it is counting in the hundreds right now. >> to give you an idea the power of this explosion, it registered 2.1 on the richter scale as an earthquake, felt 50 miles away. let's listen in to a first responder who talked live at a news conference. >> all i'm saying is load up and get out of there right now. >> i'm seeing a daycare of some sort. >> all firefighters report to the station. >> i have my unit en route. i need to know where they need to go. >> vegas and haven, we have an apartment complex with people trapped. we have people trapped at westhaven. 1200 north reagan, we're setting up triage. >> all those people in triage brought 20 miles away to waco, where they have hospitals. they are swamped this morning with injuries and fatalities as well. >> is an incredible amount of resources heading into west,
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texas, as we speak. this is according to governor perry's office. commission of environmental quality headed there. an emergency management team. also responding is the state's top urban search and rescue team of the as i told you, this has now become a search and rescue effort. they're trying to get into the homes to make sure everybody made it out okay. medical units on their way.
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this morning on "world news now" -- breaking news. this morning on "world news now" -- breaking news. the giant explosion and fire right outside of waco, texas. >> this intense blast felt for miles and the rapidly spreading fire, search for victims and answers as this story unfold. it is thursday, april 18th. >> announcer: from abc news, this is "world news now" with john muller and diana perez. truly disastrous situation in west, texas, unfolding right
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now. hundreds, at least 100 injured, fatalities confirmed. don't have a specific number on that after the massive explosion at the fertilizer plant. >> that's right. there are a lot of injuries. there are possibly some deaths as well. we want to get right to abc's steve osunsami, who's about a quarter mile away from a football field that was turned into a triage center essentially, an emergency triage center. steve, can you tell us what you see, what you hear? >> reporter: i just left that triage center. there were probably a good several hundred emergency personnel, fire fighters, there were nurses from all over the region who had come to help. there were doctors in the triage center. there were no patients when we arrived. all the serious patients had been flown to medical centers across texas. burn centers, in some instances. they tell us though they were standing by on the ready with more than a dozen ambulances there. in the event that their search and rescue ends up being
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a rescue and that they actually rescue people from these homes that have been crumbled and flattened by this explosion. i am a couple miles away from the explosion, from the plant, where it exploded. i am standing outside of a building. i don't know if you can hear this. this is the glass from the -- that was shattered from the building here. there are many, many people here who have lost their homes. who are struggling to find a place to stay tonight. all of the hotels are filled. there are lots of people who are coming here to help. and we talked to some of the people today who told us that they could hear the explosion miles and miles away. did it sound like a boom? >> boom. like a rock fell on the city. >> reporter: it felt like a rock fell on the city? you said your family -- how close were they to you? is >> they're in west. >> reporter: they're in west? >> yes. >> reporter: where are they now?
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>> they're at the folks' place. >> this is just crazy. >> it's a bad time of year. everybody is getting ready to fertilize their crops. >> reporter: we are being told there are hundreds of people who are hospitalized today. there is no -- no sense of how many people, how many fatalities are, there are in the situation currently. no one we talked with gave us any estimate of that. we did hear there were some firefighters injured. because what happened is the firefighters were dealing with the fire at the plant, and then the explosions happened afterwards. >> steve, right now, can you talk about is the actual search-and-rescue continuing? has it even started? i know there were concerns about the toxicity of the air, with ammonia compounds, which can be damaging to the eyes and the respiratory system. also, there's still a bit of concern about a second fertilizer tank. have they been able to get into these areas quite close to the plant? >> reporter: we can't see if
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they're actually in those areas now, but we're told that they are searching, that that search is continuing tonight. as far as toxicity in the air. we are not aware of anything. i can tell you that the closer we get to the plant, you can feel the ash in the air. on your skin. as you get closer and closer to the plant. who knows what is in the ash. currently we are not aware of anything. but that remains to be seen. >> steve, to give us an idea of what kind of town we are talking about here. what we know about west, texas, is that there's 2,800 people who live there. about half of them have already been evacuated. there was a nursing home, an apartment complex, and an intermediate school among the 50 to 75 structures that were damaged or decimated, as we heard from the mayor already. can you tell us a little bit more about this town? >> reporter: we have run into quite a few farmers who all tell us the fertilizer plant exploding is terrible news for them on a number of levels, in
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particular because they're going to need what that fertilizer plant was producing. it's a small town. we're not too far from waco. i'm sort of standing on what looks to be the main drag. it looks like small town texas. there's a railroad track sitting in front of me, and there are a few businesses lining the street, old corner drugstore. right now, don't know if you can hear it. one of the owners of the businesses, ray's electric and plumbing, is actually cleaning up the glass that was shattered. this is far away from the explosion, but it was still strong enough, the impact of it was strong enough to break all of this glass. >> steve, this is a town of volunteer firefighters. even the mayor of the town is a volunteer fire fighter. reports earlier about a lot of unconfirmed firefighters. they really couldn't track down where they were. have you talked to any families who had that look in their eye
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like they haven't heard from their loved ones yet? have they told you anything? >> reporter: we've heard of some those reports concerning firefighters as well. we haven't really been able to confirm anything. we haven't gotten anything official that we can truly report, but there has been some concern about firefighters who were hurt in this explosion because it happened, of course, while they were there. >> absolutely. steve osunsami, abc news. thank you for that report. we'll check back. we also want to get to abc's jim ryan, who made it pretty close to the scene. he's been brought back a little bit, about two miles away. jim, tell us any updates or what you're seeing now. >> reporter: seeing a little trickle of people from this way, coming from their homes. they can't get back in there. evacuation is in place. folks are coming out, chatting among themselves and talking about the experience of going through this terrible, terrible thing. a man named mike baker, who lives about two miles from the
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explosion site, said he felt his entire house shake. he and his wife and son then jumped in the pickup truck. they were concerned about his wife's mother. so they drove to the retirement home just across the street from the fertilizer factory. the factory, by the way, the plant is almost in the middle of town. this whole community sort of grew up around it, as so many agricultural communities do. they got to the retirement home and found it in ruins. they did manage to find mike baker's mother-in-law. she was okay. they got her out of there. the same may not be true for others who lived in that place or in the apartment complex that you heard was burning. >> jim, i'm going to ask you the same question i asked steve. have you heard anything about potential rescue efforts, recovery efforts, of rescuers being able to go into areas that were previously evacuated? do you know anything about that right now? >> reporter: only that those operations are under way. we haven't been given any sort of number of people who have been found in there or casualties discovered. we hope to get that certainly after daybreak when one of those
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crews can return back out to that area. >> when these things happen, i think a question on a lot of people's minds is the capacity of this town. we're talking about how small this town is where there's one main drag, a railroad track on one side and a line of stores on the other side, and 100 people injured. we're talking about the capacity to be able to handle something like this. we saw in boston the incredible response after the twin bombings earlier this week. can you talk about the response that you've seen there? >> reporter: it's involved a lot of phone calls and appeals for help from this community to other communities. i heard one dispatcher on the radio earlier, a police dispatcher, just as this was all firing up, saying, asking a neighboring community, send everybody and anybody that you've got. so it became a matter of getting people up from waco, getting folks down from dallas/ft. worth, and then, of course, using the volunteer fire departments scattered across
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mclendon county, where this community is. >> a chaotic situation. this explosion occurring about 8:00 last night. has it calmed down? clearly, it must be very chaotic in waco. hospitals there, i'm sure a lot of families have gotten in their cars to check out. is it a quiet situation now where you are? >> reporter: i'm looking at the freeway. earlier, it was absolutely jammed. first of all, there was an accident or two on the freeway that may have happened as a result of somebody startled by the explosion, but then it also was jammed up with emergency responders rushing down into this area. and trying to lend a hand. and there have been offers of support and real help that's come in. there have been offers of building materials, for example, that people have donated and are offering to drop off. people begin to at least make a start to recover. >> all right. jim ryan reporting once again from west, texas, this morning. thank you for that. >> developing situation.
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and it's four times stronger. [chain saw whirring] [growling] listen, you are extremely terrifying-- just the scariest undead thing on tv, and i really mean that. i am worried that you could give my kids nightmares if they see you, so i'm gonna have to block you. [sighs] so, that's it. oh, and tell the zombies they're blocked, too. welcome ba welcome back. we continue to follow breaking news, an explosion in a fertilizer plant caused major damage and more than 100 people are injured in a town called
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west, and that's in texas. it's a town that's about 20 miles north of waco. >> we do know that there are fatalities, what we don't know is how many. the scenes are devastating. we're going to take a look at some of them and hear some eyewitness reports right now from the scene. here is a chilling one. >> i was at ground zero. i seen things i don't want nobody to see. because i ran over there, because, i lost some of my friends. i am telling you. another place where i work, half a mile away, it sucked the doors out of the building. >> we hear, it sounds like thunder or lightning, but then it feels like an earthquake, and our power went off. stuff was falling. and we didn't know what it was. so all of our neighbors on our street walked outside, and then we saw the big like smoke of it and stuff. then people kept driving by and telling us what happened. stuff flying everywhere. so much stuff was on fire.
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>> just a giant explosion. are you being evacuated from your home now? >> they're saying that we need to evacuate. so we are. >> you have just heard some of the eyewitnesses who experienced the explosion in west, texas. now we want to show you some of the images that were captured soon after the explosion. that is a plume of smoke taken several meters, miles away, we don't know. this is another image. this one so telling of how powerful that explosion was. >> this is a triage center set up on a football field. one of the triage centers on a football field had to be moved to another football field nearby because they were concerned about the fumes from the plant. nursing homes destroyed, 50 to 70 homes and apartment complexes. these are dramatic pictures. it really makes you wonder what kind of fatality number we will have by the end of this. we don't want to speculate.
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officials have confirmed people are dead. 100-plus injured being treated in waco, texas, as we speak. >> earlier on the phone, we talked to a woman named linda goelzer, who is from the carter blood bank near waco, texas. she implored people to donate blood because this is what going to be needed in the coming days with the amount of injuries. burn injuries expected, there will be a lot of people hit by debris because of the explosion. the blast was so powerful. take a listen to what she had to say earlier. >> what we recommend people do. every blood center knows this. best if we can schedule people, and appointments out. these are folks many people are going to be burn patients. they're going to be getting treatment and needing blood products for many, many weeks to come. we want the blood to be coming in on a regular basis as we need it. in our territory we cover 200 health care facilities.
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so we need 1,100 blood donors every day just to meet our usual patient needs. when we have a crisis like this come upon us where there are going to be injured people cared for a long time. we are going to need regular blood donors coming in for days and days. our blood centers in texas may be calling upon community blood centers across the country to help us restock our supply in a quicker manner. we really recommend people give blood on a regular basis like we need you to do. if you want to help right away, then call and make appointments so they can tell you, depending on what kind of blood type you have, we might want you coming in sooner. the others, we might say, hey, can you make an appointment for the next couple of weeks? just be in touch with your blood center and make appointments, and that will be really helpful. >> how far and wide should the blood come from in texas? the command center, obviously, where people are being treated is in waco. if you're in dallas, if you're further away, if you're in houston, should you be donating blood?
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>> yes, because the association, the member organization we're a part of is called america's blood center, and they're actually located up there in the northeast, and they have a system, a disaster relief system where they call upon certain blood centers. if we call up to them and say, hey, we need more of this type of product, they can call around and find out who has it and call upon those centers if they have access to it. >> linda, thank you very much. once again, linda goelzer of the carter blood center. we appreciate you joining us. >> we have a live press conference to get to. >> patrick senjin, a sergeant from waco, texas. >> they have a command post set up. they have hazmat people on scene. they are working with some of the local meteorologists here. as you know, we've had pretty significant strong south winds throughout the night. at some point, we're hearing at 7:00 or so in the morning, our winds are going to switch to the north and are going to continue
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to be as strong. so we're look the at a whole other area that may be affected once those winds shift. we are still in the process of trying to get people out and get them to help. also, those that have not been injured that are affected by the blast, we're trying to get them somewhere where they're safe for the night and starting to get them some resources. >> it's been reported there were 60 to 70 fatalities. what can you say about that report? >> i cannot confirm that at all. i don't know who the doctor was that confirmed that. i have not heard that number. let me do this. i know you'll have a few questions. instead of everybody hollering, i'll try to answer what i can, but you're going to get a lot of i'm not sure yet from me. let me call on this so we don't just get too crazy here. somebody over here. >> is the cause of the blast still under investigation? >> they were still moving people out of the immediate area. i don't know how far ranging that was. it's my guess at this point they're trying to keep people from coming into the area
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absolutely for safety reasons. >> so, obviously, the most important thing coming out of what you just heard, that is a live press conference happening with a sergeant from waco, texas, is he's saying he cannot confirm any fatalities. there was a question of whether or not there's 60 to 70 fatalities, which is what a local news reporter obviously heard, and he is saying he cannot confirm any fatalities right now. >> a chilling question. we'll be back with more coverage. >> announcer: "world news now" continues after this from our abc stations.
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welcome back to the ongoing welcome back to the ongoing coverage of a devastating fertilizer plant explosion in west texas. >> we spoke to dr. richard besser earlier today about concerns for the injured. explain what some of the injuries might be with a fertilizer plant with components of ammonia. >> with a blast, you have to first think about the injuries from the blast itself.
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you'd be looking there for burns. you could be looking at broken bones, injuries to soft tissue just from the explosion. but when you add in the chemical ammonia, then you worry about what kind of breathing protection people had who are really close to that blast. ammonia can have a number of different impacts on your body. it's very irritating. it's corrosive. we've all smelled ammonia and know how hard it is to just smell that. cleakitchen mess?zy it was like super dirty, super clean. how? wish i hadn't. [ sniffs ] what's that amazing smell? it's mr. clean with the amazing scent of gain. wow! you know, if i had a team, you'd be on it. [ gasps ] our mascot could be a cleanosarus rex. you're off the team. [ male announcer ] dirt and grime have nowhere to hide with the mr. clean clean team on your side.
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but lately she's been coming in with less gray than usual. what's she up to? the new root touch-up by nice'n easy has the most shade choices, designed to match even salon color in just 10 minutes. with the new root touch-up, all they see is you. welcome back to our ongoing coverage of the disastrous situation in west, texas, right now. a fertilizer plant exploding last night about 8:00, hundreds injured. there are fatalities, we don't know that number. we're worried about that number. we'll find out more as the morning progresses. let me show you a few headlines coming out this morning. this is from the "waco tribune herald." "fertilizer plant explosion there rocks west. injuries mount."
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waco is 20 miles from west. west is a small town. and waco, just as much as west right now, is really in the thick of it because this is where the hospitals are. this is where at least 100 injured are being treated as we speak. >> the "houston chronicle" also sharing with us their headline that you'll be seeing as you wake up. this one says "fiery explosion rocks small town near waco." when we talk about west, texas, and how small it really is, one funeral home. god knows how many funerals they're going to have to be dealing with. one stretch, which is considered the main drag. a railroad runs through it as well. we're not talking about a whole lot of people, 2,800 people in this town, and more than 100 of them injured. >> quick shot here, and this is from the paper in dallas. you talk about small town, and you can see it right here. >> there it is. >> you can see the diner. you can see the mushroom cloud. 2.1 on the richter scale, this explosion, by the way, folks. that's how powerful it was. >> some of the things we haven't gotten to this morning, which is actually very important, reported by the "dallas morning news."
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this fertilizer plant that exploded apparently had reported to the epa, the environmental protection agency, and to local public safety officials, that it presented -- listen to this. no risk of fire or explosion. that's according to some of the documents that are available. the worst possible scenario, according to the plant, is a ten-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one. we're talking about worst case scenario. >> and because the situation is developing and so many people are being treated and it's really about survival and getting people well and getting people safe, nobody's really talked about what caused this. we just don't know. nobody's even going there yet. but when you talk about the facility saying they were in good shape, accidents do happen. was this an accident? was it more than an accident? we don't know yet. >> we don't know if it's connected to any of the other big headlines that have been happening throughout the week as well, the twin bombings in boston as well as the mailings of ricin to officials in the white house.
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right now, obviously, we can't say it's connected at all. an important note, an important date to remember, friday, april 19th is the 18-year anniversary of the oklahoma city bombing. if we all remember, the oklahoma city bombing was a truck full of fertilizer. >> and it's also by waco, texas, 20 miles away, where the branch davidian thing happened
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this morning on "world news now," breaking news. the giant explosion at a west texas fertilizer plant. >> the blast was so intense, it could be felt miles away. the victims, the mayhem, the heart break, and now the search for answers. it's thursday, april 18th. >> announcer: from abc news, this is "world news now" with john muller and diana perez. good morning, everybody. in a week of so much news, we
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have a truly disastrous situation unfolding this morning. >> that's right. we want to begin this half hour with that breaking news from texas. it is a fatal explosion that happened at a fertilizer plant. this is the kind of news that nobody wants to hear, especially those who live so close. there is a lot of news to get to this morning about this. >> massive evacuations, massive amounts of injuries, fatalities confirmed. this happened about 8:00 last night. this blaze sent a wave of explosion across this small texas town of west. again, almost 100 people injured. >> reporter: the explosion at the fertilizer plant sent flames leaping into the night sky in west, texas, just 19 miles north of waco. there are reports of numerous deaths and injuries. dozens of emergency crews responded to the blast. roads leading to the fire were jammed with emergency vehicles. ten buildings reported to be on fire, including a school across the street from the plant. officials set up a triage center on the football field at a school to treat the injured until they could be transported to area hospitals, but the
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concern about possible chemicals forced officials to evacuate the area, and they are gathering at another school nearby. the explosion could be heard and felt for miles and knocked out power to many. the plant explosion comes just days before the 20th anniversary of the fire that ended a 51-day siege at the branch davidian compound at waco on april 19th, 1993. >> this story evolving this morning. right now concerns about ammonia fumes in the air. half the town of west already evacuated. more winds coming through this morning that could force the entire town to be evacuated. it is a small town. a nursing home, apartment complexes, up to 50 homes, potentially heavily, heavily damaged. >> that's right. >> the numbers could be staggering when this adds up. we're going to get a press conference later in the morning to give some of these hard numbers. right now a really explosive situation. >> we actually want to get to jim ryan, who has been on the scene for quite some time. he told us he is about two miles away from it.
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he is right now joining us. he hasn't been able to get much closer to that, but he tells us he's been able to see the fumes. he's been able to smell the fumes. jim, are you there? >> reporter: yeah, it was primarily the smoke that was coming from the building that i think people were sensing around the community. it smelled like a house fire. any building fire. hazmat crews have been out, hazardous materials experts with monitoring equipment, to test the air for any trace of the sort of anhydrous ammonia that might have come from that plant. so far they haven't really been able to detect any outside the plant. that's good news. but there are still tanks outside the facility, and inside that factory, the fire is still burning. firefighters have not yet been able to get inside there. so that is still a concern. concern about another explosion perhaps, or the leak of some sort of ammonia. >> there is a second tank of fertilizer, we are told, inside that plant. we're also told, as you mentioned, the fire itself right now, while burning, is considered under control. there is a very real concern there could be another one of
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these massive explosions from the fertilizer tank, the one that remains still intact. is that correct? >> reporter: that's right. that's what the reason is for the evacuation that's going to last throughout the night. several square blocks around the area have been evacuated, essentially a large percentage of the community has packed up and gone away. i watched as people loaded up into the backs of pickup trucks, a dozen or so, just to get away from the scene. >> jim, we're seeing video here of what seems to be extensive damage to some of the areas around the plant. a lot of people haven't been able to get up close to the plant, so we can only imagine this is blocks and blocks away from the actual blast. can you tell us what you've seen. >> reporter: i've seen buildings that had windows shattered out, and they were some distance away from the factory, across the freeway, in fact, some folks who live in a residential neighborhood said that their windows were all blown out. so the damage area is quite wide, even well away from the
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factory itself. we know now that this explosion actually monitored on richter scales as a small earthquake. >> apparently, 2.1 on the richter scale, according to u.s. government efforts. talk about the firefighters. we know that west, texas, a small town, is made up of volunteer firefighters. they've been working all night, and clearly they're one of the biggest concerns because they were in there fighting the blaze initially and then that massive explosion. we know that there are fatalities. we don't have a number attached to that. the big concern, of course, is for the firefighters who were right there when that huge explosion, as you mentioned, a richter scale earthquake type explosion that was felt 50 miles away took place. are you seeing more firefighters from other surrounding towns in the state of texas coming into the area to help at this point? >> reporter: absolutely. the freeway was jammed, in fact, in both directions. interstate 35 from down south in waco and north towards dallas/ft. worth, emergency crews rushing into the area. among the volunteer firefighters in the town of west is the mayor of west.
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he was responding to the fire at the factory, was about two blocks away, he said, when suddenly the ground shook. he said his hat was blown off. the rearview mirror on his pickup truck was knocked off. it was an extremely intense explosion. he said he is concerned for the firefighters that have not yet been accounted for inside that building. >> the mayor who's a firefighter, by the way, they wear double hats there. he's both. he described the cloud, the mushroom cloud. he said it looked like a nuclear bomb went off. it just rose into the sky and was a massive, massive cloud. people wearing double hats right now, fighting fires, they're also the mayor. this is the kind of town we're talking about, real close knit community. >> jim, we know this is a small community, 2,800 people. we're hearing at least 200 of them have been injured in this blast. have you been able to talk to any of the eyewitnesses who saw things, who have people, who know people who may have been hurt, headed to the hospital, things like that? >> reporter: i spoke with a woman who was actually inside the nursing home.
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she works there. they knew about this fire. they knew about the possibility for fumes coming from across the street. just as she was starting to push a patient or a resident of the nursing home through the dining room in a wheelchair, the explosion struck. the building essentially collapsed. the woman suffered cuts and bruises and was concerned about internal injuries as well. she rushed to a friend and was taken to the hospital by pickup truck. meanwhile, ambulances were gathering up over at the football field where triage operations were under way. >> we know it's between 50 and 75 structures that were damaged. among them, we have a middle school, a nursing home, and an apartment complex. there are reports the roof of that apartment complex may have collapsed at this point. there's no telling how many people have been injured and perhaps killed. are you hearing what the efforts are going to be overnight to make sure that everybody is safe? >> reporter: it's just a matter of getting as many people as possible out into those neighborhoods, firefighters and state troopers and police to go
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in and do a house by house search. that's what the department of public safety is looking at right now, is going through each structure, trying to find if anybody is inside there, and then move on to the next one. that apartment complex, we understand, that at least early on, it was on fire. the lower floors where people were trapped on the upper floors. firefighters were trying to get in to rescue those people. >> jim ryan, thank you very much, reporting there in west, texas. we also want to go to abc's steve osunsami right now, who is in west, texas, as well. steve, can you hear us? is >> reporter: i sure can. >> you're at the scene. what are you seeing? >> reporter: we just left the triage center near that football field the previous guest just talked about, and there were probably a dozen ambulances that were outside the triage center. there was no one inside who was being treated when we got there. we're told that the most serious injuries have been airlifted to area hospitals. what they're doing right now is search and rescue, and they
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kicked us out of there. they wanted us out of there fast because, in the event they found anyone alive or injured, they wanted to bring them back to that triage center and then airlift them to hospitals as needed. i can tell you that we ran into firefighters from all across the state who have been called on to this. one firefighter told us he thought there were as many as 500 different units here. there are volunteers, people in the neighborhood who have come to help out here. we talked with a few residents who live a few miles away from the plant who said that it felt like an earthquake. we talked with a little girl who said it felt like a big rock hit her town. many people who are home at the time say it was very, very frightening, the sound and the feel that they all felt as the ground shook from this explosion. firefighters here were very concerned about a tank that was filled with some sort of ammonia, and so because of that,
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they've kept everyone very far back, miles, miles away from the center of activity here. firefighters who we talked with who were just at the fire tell us it is still burning, even though it's under control, and could still be burning for another day at least. >> steve, we were able to talk to a woman -- one of our producers was able to talk to a woman who said she was running towards the scene and saw people being wheeled out of this nursing home. many were bandaged, but many more were not bandaged, bleeding profusely from many areas. the worry is people are trying to help those in need, but there's a problem with the air quality, at least that's what they believe. are you being kept away because of the air quality, or are you being kept away because of this fear the other tank may blow? or is it because they're trying to get help to people and want to keep the ancillary people out of the way? >> reporter: we're not quite sure what's happening with that
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nursing home. i can tell you that we are about two to three miles away, and the air quality, from what i can see and smell on my own, appears fine. so i'm not sure of what the air quality issues are here. we haven't gotten many reports in terms of the conditions of the people in that nursing home or in the apartment building that was also across the street from the plant that we're told also suffered serious damage. but i can tell you that they're going through both buildings right now looking to see if there's anyone who might be trapped inside them. >> steve osunsami, we will come back to you. thank you very much for that reporting in west, texas. we want to go to brent esrock, the ceo, we believe, of the health care facility there near the blast site. brent, are you there? >> i am. >> tell us the name of your organization and where you're at right now. >> we're at providence health center in waco, texas. >> can you explain to us how many people you've seen, how many people have been arriving,
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and in what condition? >> sure. so far tonight, we've seen 62 patients, one of which came in in critical condition. the rest of them we treated, are still treating for minor or moderate injuries, ranging anywhere from cuts and abrasions, some with broken bones, many suffering from respiratory distress, obviously, from chemical inhalation. thankfully, many of them, as i said, minor to moderate. >> you said chemical inhalation. can you explain what this chemical, the ammonia that's used for the fertilizer can do to people's lungs, to their tissue, to their eyes? >> probably not in a position to do that myself. i don't know the chemical makeup of that, but you can tell from the condition they're in, they're having some issues. that's why we had so many people from our respiratory therapy department in to really deal with those issues, and they've done a marvelous job tonight. the doctors and nurses and staff from all over providence health center have done outstanding work for our friends up north.
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>> the people you're treating right now at providence health center and the people you're mentioning with lacerations, cuts, the minor type injuries, besides the one critical that you mentioned, are these people who were in the town a mile away? are you treating anyone there that was actually working on the fire before the blast? >> at this point, we don't have any emergency personnel at the hospital. no one from ems or the fire department or police. these are all just residents of the area. >> all right. brent esrock, thank you so much for joining us. good luck to you and everyone on your team. this is going to be a long morning for you, as we can only imagine. >> thank you very much. >> we're going to follow this story all morning long. we'll take a short break and be back. story all morning long. we'll take a short break and be back. we'll take a short break and then we'll be back. and lunesta eszopiclone can help you get there, like it has for so many people before. do not take lunesta if you are allergic to anything in it.
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welcome back. we continue to follow breaking news of a disastrous situation this morning not far from waco, texas, a small town called west, where there's been a huge explosion at a fertilizer plant. >> right now we know more than 100 people injured. dozens of them in critical condition. dozens of homes and businesses have been completely leveled. this explosion was so powerful, it actually registered as a 2.1 earthquake. >> people described the mushroom cloud as looking like a nuclear bomb went off. the situation, obviously, still developing, and details are scarce, that is. but eyewitness accounts are starting to trickle in. >> jeanette karlik lives just 4 1/2 miles from the scene. here's what she saw and felt.
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>> someone had called and said that the fertilizer plant was on fire. so my husband was at a meeting just north of the fertilizer plant at the knights of columbus hall. so i got off the phone, and i called him. i said, do you know the fertilizer plant is on fire? if so, don't go outside. don't breathe. don't do anything like that. he said, yeah, we know. and so i was just about to hang up when the lights flickered a couple of times, and this boom knocked me from near my table, kitchen table, onto it practically. >> we're going to hear so many eyewitness stories from this morning coming up. this morning coming up. >> announcer: world news now continues after this from our
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welcome back, everybody. we continue to follow breaking news out of a small town named west, texas, near waco, where a fertilizer plant has exploded. >> dozens of people injured, many in critical condition. and there are 50 to 75 structures, homes and businesses that have been completely leveled. that's according to local officials who now tell us there are up to 133 people who may be injured. >> this was a fertilizer plant, clearly we're talking about ammonia-based compounds. the explosion so powerful it actually registered as an earthquake. it was picked up as a 2.1. people said they felt it 50 miles away. one person on the phone we heard
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from talked about they were talking to their wife. they were expecting thunderstorms later in the evening. they heard something. they felt something. they said, are those thunderstorms here eight hours early? they, in fact, felt the blast 50 miles away. >> there are lots of accounts, lots of witnesses telling us their stories. one woman said she was approaching a nursing home, and she saw people being pulled out of the nursing home in wheelchairs, some of them bandaged, some of them didn't have any bandages, and they were just bleeding. we have 50 to 75 structures. among them, the ones that have been leveled, the ones that have been damaged pretty severely. we're talking about an apartment complex which may have a collapsed roof. perhaps people trapped inside. we have a nursing home which was in the process of being evacuated, and we also have an intermediate school which is very close to this plant. we have been told by the superintendent that there will obviously be no school there. there is a lot of extensive damage in this town, a 4 1/2-square radius around this plant has been evacuated. half the town has been
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evacuated. the area around this plant has been decimated, according to the mayor. >> all of the structures you mentioned within two miles of this plant. injuries over 100 are confirmed. fatalities are confirmed. they won't put a number on it. the fear is this, lots of local firefighters fighting those flames before the massive fireball took place. obviously, they were there, and they were close when the explosion happened. we'll try to get hard numbers, and we'll be right back. >> coming up, we'll talk to a woman who runs a local blood bank. k to a woman who runs a local blood bank. local blood bank. dad taught me so much, especially how important it is to protect the ones you love. these policies will help do that if anything ever happens to either one of us. >> right, it was easy to apply for the coverage. >> it was. we answered a few simple health questions, didn't even have to take a physical, so we didn't miss any time from work. >> and it's affordable. it had to fit in to our budget, which isn't an easy thing to do these days. ♪
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welcome back to our coverage of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in west, texas. hundreds of people injured, fatalities confirmed, and right now the situation is ongoing, and the health care facilities near waco, texas, are struggling to keep up with what's going on. >> on the phone joining us right now is linda goelzer. she's a representative from carter blood care. this is a blood center that is in the dallas area. linda, when we talk about
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situations like this, mass injuries, and potentially mass casualties, everybody wants to help. the first thing they can think of is, if they can't send the money, they can help with donating their blood. there's a message that you have for people. don't run to your local blood bank today or tomorrow. correct, linda? >> correct. what we recommend people do -- and every blood center knows this, it's best if we can schedule appointments and schedule people out. many people are going to be burn patients, which means they're going to be needing treatment and getting blood products for many, many weeks to come. we want the blood to be coming in on a regular basis as we need it. in our territory, we cover more than 200 health care facilities, so we need 1,100 blood donors every day just to meet our usual patient need. so when we have a crisis like this come upon us where there are going to be injured people who are going to be cared for for a long time, we're going to need the regular blood donors coming in for days and days.
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our blood centers in texas may be calling upon community blood centers across the country to help us restock our supply in a quicker manner. so we really recommend people give blood on a regular basis like we need you to do, and if you want to help right away, then call and make appointments so they can tell you. you know, depending on what kind of blood type you have, we might want you coming in sooner, the others, we might say, hey, can you make an appointment for the next couple of weeks? so just be in touch with your blood center and make appointments. that will be really helpful. >> linda, how far and wide should the blood come in from texas? the command center, obviously, where the people being treated is in waco. if you're in dallas, if you're further away, if you're in houston, should you be donating blood? >> yes. because the association, the member organization we're a part of, is called america's blood center. they're actually located up there in the northeast. they have a system, a disaster
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relief system, where they call upon certain blood centers. if we call out to them and say, hey, we need more of this type of product, they can call around and find out who has it and call upon those centers. they have access to centers. >> linda goelzer of the carter blood center in the dallas area. we appreciate you joining us.
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and breaking news right now. a massive explosion. >> death and destruction in the heart of texas. a huge blast at a fertilizer plantiers through a small town. >> i can tell you, i was there. i walked to the blast area. i searched some houses earlier tonight. massive, just like iraq, just like the murrah building in oklahoma city. >> dangerous chemicals still linger in the air as authorities go door to door throughout the
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night searching for victims in this devastated town. and good morning. a somber start to this thursday morning. we've been reporting this story throughout the night. a devastating explosion at a fertilizer plant. >> it's been unfolding in the small town of west texas. the very latest toll at least 3 are dead with several first responders sill missing. homes anticipate businesses burned through the night, but it will take to the light of day to reveal the terrible destruction and the full human toll. >> there is the ongoing concern about gases that the burning fertilizer plant may be releasing into the air. >> abc's preeti arla has been with us all morning long. she's been following the developments. >> reporter: the massive explosion and fire in the city of west texas sent flames leaping into the night sky.
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the blast could be heard and felt for miles. it was so strong, it registered as an earthquake. there are reports of numerous deaths and some 200 injuries. >> i've never seen anything like this. >> reporter: the explosion leveled as many as 75 to 100 homes and businesses around the plant. now officials are going home to home looking for victims. >> it's hard. the major -- the most devastating thing that's happened to this community. it's just a big old cut that we got across the heart. >> reporter: the blast also damaged a nursing home forcing the evacuation of about 130 patients. >> i don't know what their injuries are there right now, but all injuries have been removed from the scene and taken to local hospitals in the waco area. >> reporter: authorities originally set up a triage center on the football field of a school to treat the injured, but concerns about possible chemicals or another explosion forced officials to evacuate the area and gather at another nearby school. >> it's devastating. our house is destroyed, and i was standing outside on the

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